Cambridge Analytica has suspended its chief executive Alexander Nix following an alleged data breach involving 50 million Facebook users.
The data firm’s board cited comments made by Mr Nix to an undercover Channel 4 News reporter, that was featured in a documentary about the company.
It said his comments ‘do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view the violation’.
Mr Nix declined to answer questions as he left the Cambridge Analytica building at 6.30pm and climbed into a black Mercedes.
Facebook and Cambridge Analytica are under scrutiny following claims that the company harvested the personal data of 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge or permission.
It comes after Channel 4 published footage showing Mr Nix boasting that his company placed a decisive role in Donald Trump’s win in the US presidential election.
He told the undercover reporter: ‘We did all the research. We did all the data. We did all the analytics. We did all the targeting. We ran all the digital campaign and our data informed their strategy.’
In a statement, Cambridge Analytica said: ‘The board of Cambridge Analytica has announced today that it has suspended CEO Alexander Nix with immediate effect, pending a full, independent investigation.
‘In the view of the Board, Mr Nix’s recent comments secretly recorded by Channel 4 and other allegations do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation.
‘We have asked Dr Alexander Tayler to serve as acting CEO while an independent investigation is launched to review those comments and allegations.
‘We have asked Julian Malins QC to lead this investigation, the findings of which the board will share publicly in due course.
‘The board will be monitoring the situation closely, working closely with Dr Tayler, to ensure that Cambridge Analytica, in all of its operations, represents the firm’s values and delivers the highest-quality service to its clients.’
Protesters gathered outside the office, including Heiko Khoo, who compared the company to the Stasi from his time living in East Germany.
He put up posters showing Mr Nix depicted behind bars with the caption: ‘Our data not his. Go straight to jail.’
Mr Khoo said: ‘I lived in East Germany. This is my secret police file from the East Germans which shows they had a record of me.
‘We used to be scared that the police were watching over us, but they were always just a few individuals. It wasn’t like this type of spying.
‘The spying these people are engaged in is the worst spying, the most ubiquitous spying in the history of the world, and they must be stopped.’